WHAT HAS been described as the Boat Race for the brain ended in a clear but not overwhelming victory for Oxford last week- end. Although Oxford were pre-match favourites, with a distinct average rating advantage over Cambridge, the run of play after the first hour or so indicated that the result might conclude with one of the rare draws in the series. In particular, Oxford top board, grandmaster Dharshan Kumar- an, seemed to have played an unsound defence and was a pawn down with little visible compensation. Although the other boards ran a fairly predictable course dur- ing the afternoon, Kumaran displayed his grandmasterly skills in extracting every ounce of counterplay from his inferior situ- ation and ultimately turned the tables with some neat tactics on his less experienced opponent. The full set of results were as follows:
Oxford Cambridge Dharshan Kumaran Mark Ferguson 1-0 Jonathan Rowson Brian Kelly 1-0 Boyan Tonkov Harriet Hunt 0-1 Maxim Devereaux Aron Cohen Draw Aleksander Trifunovic David Moskovic Draw Oliver Rosten Jack Rudd 1-0 Joel Ouaknine Ben Morgan 1-0 Emily Howard Stuart White 0-1 Total 5-3
This week I give the best game for Oxford and the best for Cambridge, judged by a panel including myself, Henry Mutkin of the RAC, chairman of the organising committee, and the arbiter Bob Wade.
Rowson–Kelly: Varsity Match 1998; Sicilian Defence.
1 e4 c5 2 NI3 e6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 d6 6 Be3 a6 7 Qd2 An old and somewhat neglected variation. In recent years White has tended to
prefer 7 Be2 followed by 0-0 and f4. White intends here to castle on the other wing and, as the further course of the game shows, this line is possibly due for a revival. 7 ...Nf6 8 0-0-0 Be7 9 f4 0-0 10 Be2 Bd7 11 g4 Nxd4 12 Qxd4 Bc6 13 g5 Nd7 14 Rhgl e5 15 rxe5 Also good is 15 Qd2 exf4 16 Bxf4 Ne5 17 h4 b5 18 h5 Rc8 19 Kbl Qc7 20 g6 as in Ghinda—Schmidt, Warsaw 1979, also won by White. 15 ... NxeS If 15 ... dxe5, preserv- ing the integrity of his pawn structure, then 16 Qc4 followed, if necessary, by a combination of Bg4 and Nd5 will keep White on top. 16 Rg3 Rc8 17 Bc4 Normally White likes to preserve his light-squared bishop in such positions but here he realises that Black will have to swap off his own best-placed piece, the knight on e5, to pre- vent White dominating the light squares by means of Bd5. 17 ... Nxe4 18 Qxc4 b5 19 Qb3 Qd7 (Diagram) Allowing White an immediate breakthrough, but if 19 ... Kh8 then 20 h4 fol- lowed by Bd4 keeps up the pressure. 20 g6 Qe6 If 20 ... hxg6 21 Rxg6 and Black cannot capture the rook on account of the pin. 21 gxh7+ Kh8 22 Bd4 Qh6+ 23 Kbl MI5 24 Bxf6 Qxf6 25 Qb4 Rfd8 26 Rgd3 Qh4 27 Rg3 Qf6 If 27 ... Qxh2 White switches back with 28 Rdgl and Qd4. 28 Rdgl g6 29 h4 Kxh7 30 h5 Rg8 31 Rg5 Kh6 32 e5 A beautiful move, harping once again on Black's exposure at d6, in order to transfer the white queen to its most effective attacking post. 32 .. • dxe5 Black's best now would be to give up his queen on g5, e.g. 32 ... Qxg5 33 Rxg5 Kxg5 but after 34 hxg6 Rxg6 35 exd6 the exposure of Black's king combined with the strength of the passed pawn on d6 renders Black's task of defence extremely difficult. 33 Qh4 Kg7 34 hxg6 fxg6 35 Ne4 Bxe4 36 Qxe4 KI'8 37 RxeS With heavy pieces on, the lack of shelter for Black's king makes his defensive task impossible. 37 ... Rd8 38 Qb4+ Qd6 39 Rfl+ Kg7 40 Re7+ Black resigns After Black moves his king there will be a deadly queen check on the h-file.
Hunt–Tonkov: Varsity Match 1998; Ruy Lopez.
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 dxe5 Be6 9 Nbd2 Nc5 10 c3 Be7 The main theoretical variations arise after 10 ... d4. Here Black chooses a more solid alter- native. 11 Bc2 Qd7 12 Rel Bg4 13 Nfl Bh5 14 Ng3 Bg6 15 Be3 Reaching the same position against Garcia from the Dubai Olympiad 1986, Nigel Short gained the advantage with 15 Nd4 Nxd4 16 cxd4 Ne6 17 Be3 c5 18 Nf5 0-0 19 dxc5 Bxc5 20 Bxc5 NxcS 21 Rcl. 15 ...Ne6 16 a4 0-0 17 Nf5 Rfd8 18 Qe2 Bf8 19 h3 If 19 axb5 axb5 20 Rxa8 Rxa8 21 QxbS Black has a choice between 21 ...Rb8 or 21 ...Nxe5, tactically regaining the pawn in either case. 19 ...b4 20 Radl Na5 21 cxb4 Nc4 22 13c1 Bxb4 23 Rfl c6 24 N3h4 Qa7 Black is doing well on the queenside but mean- while storm clouds are gathering around the black king. 25 Khl BI8 26 f4 Rab8 27 Bd3 Nb6 28 a5 Na4 29 Nxg6 hxg6 30 Nh4 NecS 31 f5 The thematic lever against Black's kingside pawn for- mation. 31 ...Nxd3 32 Rxd3 gxf5 33 NxfS Nc5 34 Rg3 Ne4 35 Rg4 Rd7 36 Bh6 g6 37 e6 Rdb7 38 exf7+ Kh8 39 BxfB Rxf8 40 Rh4 mate.
The good news for the annual Oxford v. Cambridge match is that Tony Buzan, lec- turer and author on the brain, has con- firmed that he will be supporting it for the next decade.